University sees seventh consecutive year of enrollment growth

Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum is calling the university’s seventh year of consecutive enrollment growth “extremely encouraging” in the wake of the state, region and nation navigating a global pandemic.

MSU is up slightly this fall, recording a total of 23,086 students to surpass 2020’s headcount of 22,986. Keenum gives credit to MSU faculty and staff for their exceptional effort and creativity as they pivoted during challenging times to help ensure student success.

“We’ve encountered a health crisis like none we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Keenum said. “Our employees have risen to the task and done a phenomenal job of finding meaningful ways to engage with, teach and assist our students. For this, I’m very grateful.”

MSU’s new numbers show an impressive 5.1% growth in first-time freshmen, during a time when the pool of high school graduates is shrinking across the nation. This fall, there are 3,388 first-time freshmen, compared to 3,223 in 2020. Overall graduate student numbers continue to climb as well, up 8% or 4,104 students from last fall’s 3,803 headcount. Nearly 2,000 students transferred to the university, reflecting MSU’s robust partnership with the state’s two-year colleges.

Keenum said MSU continues to work hard at recruiting new students and retaining current ones, noting “it’s evident that even in the midst of the pandemic everyone involved with bringing new students here has found innovative ways to connect with them. Sustaining student engagement once they’re here and providing readily available academic assistance programs outside the classroom also are major factors in their success as members of the Bulldog family.”

A new Center for Academic Advising is encouraging academic continuity and completion through an innovative software pilot program that engages students with professional advisors. Tutoring is being expanded as well as Supplemental Instruction, or SI, which is growing in the number of courses offered. The university also is boosting its intervention strategies, combining its Navigator and Pathfinder programs through a new academic coaching model to help guide freshmen through their first-year experience.

MSU’s consecutive years of sustained growth also have seen the university remain the No. 1 college choice for Mississippi’s high school graduates with 14,710 Magnolia State students enrolled, 64% of the student body.

This year’s freshman class scholarship recipients include:

-- 114 valedictorians and 85 salutatorians

-- 83 student body presidents

-- 80 Star Students

-- 100 Eagle Scouts

-- 12 Girl Scout Gold Award recipient

MSU also remains No. 1 in the state as the “Best Value College,” giving students the greatest return on their educational investment with graduates earning higher starting and mid-career salaries than their peers at other in-state universities.

When it comes to research and innovation, MSU is the state’s leader, generating more than a quarter of a billion dollars annually in research and development expenditures. As the state’s only National Science Foundation Top 100-ranked institution, researchers and their students are developing new COVID-19 antibody tests, creating innovative food security measures in non-industrialized nations, and writing the flight plan for unmanned aircraft, among a remarkable list of other life-changing, impactful discoveries.

The university recently raised more than $1 billion during its Infinite Impact fundraising campaign—a milestone previously never achieved by an educational institution in Mississippi. This past fiscal year alone, MSU recorded more than $120 million in gifts, the eighth consecutive year of raising more than $100 million.

And, MSU is seeing more growth than its peers in capital improvements, initiating or completing more than $1 billion in construction and major renovations since 2009. Three new campus roadways, three-quarters of a million square feet of restored road and parking infrastructure, 900 parking places in two new lots, and three additional academic buildings are all part of the university’s most recent developments. Just last week, the ribbon was cut to officially open the new Richard A. Rula Engineering and Science Complex, a $34 million facility now home to civil and environmental engineering programs.

In the Bagley College of Engineering, 4,788 students are enrolled this fall and join these in the university’s seven other colleges:

-- 2,563 in Agriculture and Life Sciences

-- 829 in Architecture, Art and Design

-- 5,162 in Arts and Sciences

-- 3,624 in Business

-- 3,887 in Education

-- 573 in Forest Resources

-- 512 in Veterinary Medicine, and

-- 1,148 in academic affairs and other units.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Harriet Laird | Public Affairs

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